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Why midwest earthquakes can be felt miles away from epicenter

St. Louisans felt earthquake over a hundred miles away

ST. LOUIS — A magnitude 4 earthquake shook the small town of Williamsville Wednesday night, about 12 miles from Poplar Bluff. Even though St. Louis is over 100 miles from Williamsville, residents reported feeling the rumble. 

Doug Wiens is a Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Washington University. He says, "I asked my class this morning if anybody had felt the earthquake and several students said 'what earthquake?' and when I told them the time of the earthquake they said, 'oh yeah', so there were some people in St. Louis that felt it."

Had an earthquake of similar magnitude happened in quake hot spot California, Wiens says only people close to the epicenter would have felt it. Seismic waves in California struggle to pass through the local geology, but travel easily through Missouri and Illinois rock. 

If you didn't feel it, you'd be in the majority. "I didn't feel it either," Wiens shrugs, "I think most people didn't because it's a magnitude 4 earthquake way in southern Missouri, it's at the edge of what you can feel."

Don't feel like you missed out though, as St. Louis University Professor Robert Hermann explains, if you live here long enough, you will probably feel a quake. "This earthquake was not really unexpected because we have seismic activity in this area," adds Hermann.

Wednesday night's quake hit in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, one of two near St. Louis. 

"If you wanted to rank it to the broader region of southeastern Illinois where there have been damaging earthquakes down into the New Madrid region, it's about the 20th largest earthquake in the last 60 years," Hermann tells 5 On Your Side. 

Damage with earthquakes of the one from last night is minor and limited.

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